The auction came as the Mountain Kingdom explores how to ensure diamond mines are at least 51 percent-owned by locals, which will include the entry of small-scale miners into the sector.
Lesotho’s diamonds are usually auctioned in Antwerp, Belgium. Buyers from as far as the Netherlands and Israel were joined by those from neighbouring South Africa and locals at the inaugural auction.
Launched by Deputy Prime Minister Mathibeli Mokhothu, the auction sold off diamonds collected from the public and those confiscated by the police in recent months. Of the 493 diamonds auctioned, 140 were voluntarily handed over by the public while 353 were confiscated by the police.
The government offered an amnesty from November 2020 to March 2021 to anyone in possession of undocumented diamonds, allowing them to hand the gems over without fear of prosecution. The auction was held from May 27 to 29.
Mining Minister Serialong Qoo said all revenue from the confiscated diamonds would be forfeited to the state and proceeds from gems voluntarily handed to the government would be paid into the holders’ bank accounts.
“I am very delighted that this day has finally come after it was initially delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic. This is a big move as parliament has now embraced the idea of letting Basotho mine with their picks and shovels legally,” said Minister Qoo.
Mining Ministry spokesperson Ms ‘Makananelo Motseko this week said a final report on the auction was being compiled and would be made public.
At the auction, Deputy PM Mr Mokhothu said, “We hope this local auctioning will spell the end for illegal diamond dealing as trade will be done securely and legally. This occasion gives me hope that soon, all of Lesotho’s diamonds will be sold in-country and benefit it economically.”
He also said Lesotho should move towards ensuring that at least 51 percent of shareholding in the diamond mines is held locally while investors would hold the remaining 49 percent.